Alberta Road Trip Itinerary: 8 Days of Canadian Rocky Mountain Adventures
Updated: Aug 12, 2022
After seeing all kinds of photos on social media of stunning mountains and crystal blue lakes and planning a trip that had to be cancelled last summer, I finally made my way to Alberta this year and it did not disappoint. We travelled in July, beginning in Calgary then driving straight to Jasper, followed by Lake Louise, Banff and ending in Calgary. Read along for the perfect Summer Itinerary exploring Alberta’s majestic Rocky Mountains.
Day 1 - Jasper
Let me preface the beginning of my trip by saying that we chose to fly in and out of Calgary, making Day 1 a lengthy drive up the beautiful Icefields Parkway after arriving early in the morning. We did this to save costs on a rental car, but you could also easily begin your trip in Edmonton and either take some time to explore there or save a bit of driving time on Day 1.
When we arrived we checked into the Forest Park Hotel, a charming rustic spot within walking distance from the downtown Jasper area. I especially loved their beautiful dining area built around a large fireplace as well as their outdoor fire pit where people would congregate for an evening beverage around the fire.
After a long day of travelling, we enjoyed our first meal in Jasper at Fiddle River Restaurant which is known for its seafood. I highly recommend their smoked seafood chowder.
Day 2 - Jasper
We began the day with a trip to the beautiful Maligne Canyon. Our plan to arrive early to beat the crowds was successful as we pulled to the car park around 9 am and had plenty of parking spots to choose from. This is a great spot for hikers of any ability and consists of 6 bridges with stunning views of the powerful water flowing through the canyon.
Later that day, we enjoyed food and wildlife tours booked through Jasper Food Tours. We began with a food tour through the town of Jasper which took us to four restaurants that provided food and drink pairings which reflected the local, Canadian and International flavours that characterize Canada’s rich culture.
Next, our guide from Sundog Tours picked us up at the final stop of the food tour to begin the wildlife portion of the tour where, among other animals, we spent quite a bit of time following a Grizzly Bear walking alongside our bus, even stopping to stand on its hind legs to scratch it’s back on a tree.
Day 3- Jasper to Lake Louise
Day three found us packing up from Jasper and making our way toward Lake Louise with a few stops along the way.
Next, we drove the Icefields Parkway to experience the Columbia Icefield up close and personal. We began with a trip on an Icefields Explorer right onto the Athabasca Glacier where we spent some time walking on the glacier, taking photos and even filling our water bottles with crisp, clean glacier water. This was followed by a visit to the Glacier Skywalk where we walked (much to my husband's displeasure) on a glass floored walkway over the Sunwapta Valley.
Our next stop took us to the Peyto Lake Lookout, a beautiful viewpoint that involved a bit of an uphill hike but was totally worthwhile!
During our time in Lake Louise, we stayed at a budget friendly hotel, Mountaineer Lodge, which was equipped with the basics and also provided an ample free breakfast. It certainly wasn’t a fancy spot, but provided the necessities.
That evening, we actually took a drive to British Columbia where we enjoyed a lovely dinner in the Mount Burgess Dining Room at Emerald Lake Lodge. The lodge is surrounded by an emerald blue lake (hence the name) that looks like it came straight from a movie and was definitely worth the half-hour drive for dinner.
Day 4 - Lake Louise
Day 4 took us to both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. We set out early in the morning, parked in the shuttle parking lot and hopped on the first shuttle to Moraine Lake, one of the most picturesque and idyllic places I have ever laid eyes on. I didn’t want to leave but eventually it was time to hop on the lake connector shuttle and headed to Lake Louise. When planning to visit both of these spots, parking is extremely limited so be sure to book your spot on the shuttle well in advance.
While at Lake Louise, we treated ourselves to afternoon tea overlooking the lake which we booked ahead of time at the Fairview Restaurant at Fairmont Lake Louise. For more serious hikers, you can also hike 1-2 hours up to the Lake Agnes Tea House whose trail also begins at Lake Louise or, for water lovers, you could also rent canoes and get out on the lake.
Day 5 - Lake Louise to Banff
On day 5 we made our way from Banff to nearby Lake Louise stopping at Johnston Canyon along the way. This is another spot you will want to arrive early, we were there just before 10am and it was already pretty busy but by the time we were making out way back to the car, there was a steady stream of tourists making their way along the canyon walkway.
We arrived in Banff around lunch time and were able to check in early at our hotel, Moose Hotel and Suites, a well-appointed spot with a restaurant, beautiful rooftop pools and firepits all located within walking distance of the downtown. Getting around Banff was quite simple with the complimentary Roam Transit pass provided by the hotel for the duration of our stay. With buses running every 20-30 minutes, all of the local sights were quite accessible.
It was a beautiful day so we went to check out the rooftop patio (a bit of a hidden gem) at a local Mexican spot, Magpie & Stump where we enjoyed relaxing on the trendy patio while enjoying some tacos and beverages.
Our next stop was Park Distillery, where we pre-booked a tour and tasting. The only distillery located in a National Park, Park distillery uses glacier water to make their spirits. It was a great spot where we met a few other travelers on the tour and shared stories and recommendations. They also have a restaurant that looked quite popular as well.
For dinner, we went to The Grizzly House, a spot known for its fondue. This spot was like a trip back in time and a bit of a novelty experience. Fun fact, this spot used to be a swingers club and the tables all have phones that the patrons used to call the other tables. We ordered the 4 course dinner which included soup or salad, cheese fondue, meats of your choice cooked on a hot stone and chocolate fondue. If you’re planning to visit and weather permits, try to book a seat on their patio as the indoor area gets quite smoky from the grills.
Day 5 - Banff
We began Day 6 with a trip up Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola where we took in stunning vistas of the town of Banff and the surrounding mountains. You can also book ahead to dine at one of the restaurants at the top of the mountain.
After coming down the mountain, it is a perfect time to visit the neighbouring Banff Hot Springs but be prepared to arrive early as it is first come first served. It looked quite crowded when we were there so we skipped it, instead spending the afternoon enjoying the peaceful solitude of our hotel’s rooftop hot tubs and comfortable lounge chairs.
For dinner, we decided to splurge on the 5-course chef's tasting menu at Eden located at Rim Rock Resort Hotel. Eden is one of the few restaurants in Canada that has been honoured since 2003 with AAA/CAA 5-Diamond and “Best of Award of Excellence” Wine Spectator awards and it definitely lived up to its reputation. We also enjoyed wine pairings with each delicious course while taking in stunning mountain vistas. Eden is a definite must visit if you are celebrating a special occasion on your travels.
Day 6- Banff
We began the day with an early breakfast at Tooloulou's. This Cajun inspired restaurant is a hot spot in town so be sure to get there early to avoid the lines. I had the “Sizzling Rivalry”, eggs benny with Cajun shrimp and crab on top of Canadian bacon and it did not disappoint.
After breakfast we took some time to wander the shops downtown, explore the Cascade of Time Garden and the Bow Falls, all within walking distance of our hotel.
We then spent the afternoon relaxing as we enjoyed massages at the Red Earth Spa at Banff Caribou Lodge, which was also walking distance from our hotel. We chose the “Dream Cloud Massage”, a 75 minute treatment that includes a 45 minute massage followed by 30 minutes of foot and scalp massage. The treatment also includes a bottle of their signature Dream Cloud oil to take home and enjoy.
We ended this relatively low key day with dinner at Farm & Fire, a restaurant whose menu focuses on foods grown locally which are then grilled on a wood fire. It was the perfect way to conclude our final evening in Banff.
Day 7 - Banff to Calgary
Upon Arrival in Calgary we had arranged for an early check in at Hotel Arts, a fun, funky spot that offers a fun poolside experience. After checking in we had lunch at the nearby Native Tongues Taqueria before heading to our afternoon pool reservation where we enjoyed drinks while lounging by the pool.
We concluded our day with dinner at Sukiyaki House, a lovely Japanese restaurant offering Fresh sushi along with other menu items.
Day 8 - Calgary and Drumheller
Our final day in Alberta was spent driving to Drumheller, an area with many unique geographic attractions. We began with a visit to the Royal Tyrrell Museum where we explored the museum which features excellent exhibits that include dinosaur bones, fossils and more, before taking in the on-site lookout and interpretive trail through the badlands. It is important to keep in mind that it gets quite hot and there is no shade, so early is definitely better for exploring this area. After exploring the area around the museum, we took a short car ride to the nearby Hoodoos, which are tall thin spires of rocks formed by erosion and definitely a sight to see.
Another similar day trip from Alberta is Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in the heart of Alberts’s badlands that contains some of the most important fossil discoveries ever made.
For dinner, we stayed close to our hotel and visited Ten Foot Henry, a highly rated Calgary spot featuring a variety of shareable plates, with something for everyone. A must-order on the menu is definitely the tomatoes with whipped feta served with sourdough toast, it is magical!
With that, our trip came to its conclusion and I checked Alberta off of my bucket list of locations to travel. It’s a great spot for a road trip, with picturesque views, no shortage of activities and great culinary finds. If you’re looking to extend your stay, consider heading south and check out my guide to the nearby Okanagan region, “5 Days of Adventures in the Okanagan”.